Serbian rugby league is spearheading the sport’s entry into another new territory. Radoslav Novakovic, Belgrade Rugby League Federation president, has visited Banja Luka, capital city of the Republic of Srpska the independent entity within Bosnia and Herzegovina, to supervise a new rugby league development programme.
Banja Luka has a strong historical link with the game. In 1961 the national rugby league team played its one and only game in the 10-year life of the then Yugoslavia Rugby League in the city. The match, played in front of over 5,000 fans against France A, saw the visitors win, with suitable symbolism, 13-nil.
“The idea is that we support the creation of the first ever rugby league club in the Republic of Srpska and Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Novakovic. “It took off almost two months ago and there has been great interest among the youth for rugby league, especially among students.”
The initial plan is for the new club, the White Rabbits, to play in the Serbian second division. Sreten Zec, the coach and project leader, said, “I started playing rugby league in Belgrade University two years ago when I was studying Philosophy. I played for the Faculty of Philosophy rugby league team and won Belgrade’s student competition twice. So, I decided to bring this sport to my region as it absolutely fits the mentality of the Serbian people and the boys love it.”
Zec is keen to create further new clubs in Novi Grad and another city in the enclave. Three clubs will allow the new group to receive recognition from the autonomous government in Banja Luka and from there development feelers can go out into the rest of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Jovan Vujosevic, Rugby League European Federation Central and East Europe Regional Director, has been encouraged by the expansionist move in the complex Balkans region. “This is a huge step for Serbian Rugby League as it tries to spread the game in this region,” he commented. “The Serbian federation has been very proactive in its cooperation with Hungary and hopes it can do the same with the Republic of Srpska.”
Vujosevic also confirmed that he is in contact with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Greece and Montenegro.
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